Prolific blogger, student activist, and Confident Muslim award-winner 2017, sister Heraa Hashmi shares advice on the STEPS program.
I grew up in a relatively small town in Colorado. It was not until I attended a few courses with Qalam Institute in Dallas that I felt far behind my peers in terms of knowledge of the deen.
Between university, work, and family, it seemed impossible to continue studying aside from attending halaqas at the local masjid here and there. I came across the Seekershub STEPS 1 program and enrolled because they offered regular, structured courses that still offered me the flexibility to go at my own pace. Most, if not all, of the courses consist of 12 lessons.
The way they interwove with my university classes changed week to week, especially around midterms, but by the middle of the semester I settled on a general schematic. During the week, during breaks or after classes, I would plow through the readings or any additional resources preceding that week’s lesson.
The weekends were reserved for the hour-long lectures, and because I had already finished the readings, I felt prepared with a solid foundation in order to get the most out of the lessons. Then I would take the quiz right after, and in the next few days go over any questions I missed and retake as needed, and prepare for the next lesson in the same fashion.
Once a month, I would go through haphazard notes taken during lecture and rewrite them. This would serve as a review. This is not to say that this will work for you, but that dedicating time towards the courses is a necessity.
Firstly, center your mindset — rather than making seeking knowledge a chore that’s done in your free time, make it a point to free your time. Even if it’s ten minutes a day or an hour a week, with sincere intentions to thrive spiritually and live the religion, Allah Most High will put baraka in your time, insha Allah.
Second, go at your own pace, but try to be consistent. Even during weeks where you’re overwhelmed, delaying one lesson will become two then ten. Keep the momentum.
Third, do the readings! Or at least skim through them. They’re there for a reason, and often serve as primers for the lectures, or as supplements to the topic.
Last, take advantage of the extra resources on the website. A nice feature of the courses to take advantage of is the audio only recordings – download them onto your phone for long commutes. Print out the slides (every lesson has a handout) and take handwritten notes, if you learn better that way.
Make flashcards for new vocabulary, especially useful for the Arabic language courses. Join a study circle, or host your own! Learning the essentials in order to be grounded in belief and practice is a responsibility of every Muslim.
Every time the thought of being behind or not knowing where to start crosses your mind, remember that true intelligence is in remembering Allah, remembering death, and preparing for the afterlife.
May Allah Most High bless our journeys in seeking sacred knowledge.
If you enjoyed this piece, you can keep up to date on my twitter: @caveheraa, and YouTube channel, and read more of my works at traversingtradition.com.